Fair Trade: What is it and Why Care?


What is fair trade? Walking down the aisles of Trader Joe’s, you spot some coffee with a “Fair Trade” sticker on the label. You know it sounds like a good choice, but why?

Fair trade is a worldwide movement to promote people and planet first through businesses, consumers and employees. It means that each person involved in the process of making a product is treated with respect to their livelihood. It encourages the protection of cultural identity, environmental awareness and clarity in business transactions. In today’s global market, businesses drive down costs at the expense of those most susceptible: farmers and laborers. When two out of five people in the world work in some sort of farming capacity, it is incredibly important that we encourage equal opportunity, education, safety and pay to each and every employee.

Fair trade has been used as a blanket statement for products produced or bought outside of normal business. Not all farmers markets or local craft shops are fair trade. To ensure that standards of fair trade could be monitored, the Fair Trade Certificate was created in the 1990s. The creation of this label led to fair trade organizations educating consumers, artists and farmers on the importance of buying and creating ethical products. The process to receive a fair trade label is rigorous and must be renewed each year in order to maintain protection of each farmer and employee and our lovely planet. 

Most of the farmers and companies using fair trade methods of business are helping protect vulnerable populations throughout the world. According to a 2018 Forbes article, millions of people are farmworkers, and “the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 300 million of homeworkers globally, most of whom are women.” Homeworkers are individuals who create arts or crafts out of their home, the second largest employer of women in developing communities after farmworking. There is a process similar to the audit of fair trade farmed goods that safeguards the well-being of all artisans. 

Fair trade has become an important part of securing the livelihood of farmers, artisans and employees all over the world. The emphasis on connection and respect is changing the narrative of consuming and producing forever. And we can all take part in this change in our own cities. St. Louis offers a few different shops and restaurants that pride themselves on being fair trade stores selling certified food and goods. And it is always good to keep your eyes peeled for big name stores like Aldi, Walmart and Trader Joe’s to stock their shelves with fair trade items. 

Here are a couple options for where to do your fair trade shopping in St. Louis: 

Plowsharing Crafts- Located in the loop, this store prides itself on their connection to artisans around the world. Their website states that they “provide meaningful income to skilled artisans around the world by marketing their products in the St. Louis area since 1985.” 


Zee Bee Market- Opened in 2014, this store encourages consumers to “shop the world…locally.” Located in Tower Grove and downtown Maplewood, Zee Bee offers a wide array of crafted goods, teas, food, coffee and more. 


Our own Francis Xavier College Church even has sales every once in a while in the entrance of church, partnering with Zee Bee Market. Local coffee shops around our area take pride in serving fair trade teas and coffees include Sump Coffee, Foundation Grounds and even Kaldis.